U.S. Supreme Court preserves broad access to abortion pill

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday blocked new restrictions set by lower courts on a widely used abortion pill, a decision welcomed by President Joe Biden as his administration defends broad access to the drug in the latest fierce legal battle over reproductive rights in the United States.

The justices, in a brief order, granted emergency requests by the Justice Department and the pill's manufacturer Danco Laboratories to put on hold an April 7 preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas. The judge's order would have greatly limited the availability of mifepristone while litigation proceeds in a challenge by anti-abortion groups to the pill's federal regulatory approval.

"As a result of the Supreme Court's stay, mifepristone remains available and approved for safe and effective use while we continue this fight in the courts," Biden said in a statement issued by the White House.

"The stakes could not be higher for women across America. I will continue to fight politically driven attacks on women's health," Biden added.

Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito publicly dissented from the decision. Alito, in a brief opinion, wrote that the administration and Danco did not show that they were likely to suffer "irreparable harm."

Biden's administration is seeking to defend mifepristone in the face of mounting abortion bans and restrictions enacted by Republican-led states since the Supreme Court in June 2022 overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that had legalized the procedure nationwide. Alito authored that ruling.

The current case now returns to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is set to hear arguments on May 17. The losing side after the 5th Circuit rules could appeal the case back to the Supreme Court.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. agency that signs off on the safety of food products, drugs and medical devices, approved mifepristone in 2000. The challengers contend that the FDA illegally approved mifepristone and then removed critical safeguards on what they call a dangerous drug.

Mifepristone is taken with another drug called misoprostol to perform medication abortion, which accounts for more than half of all U.S. abortions. The drug has other uses including management of miscarriages.

"I continue to stand by FDA's evidence-based approval of mifepristone, and my administration will continue to defend FDA's independent, expert authority to review, approve and regulate a wide range of prescription drugs," Biden said.

(Cover: A news television crew outside the Supreme Court of the United States on April 21, 2023 in Washington, DC. /CFP)

Source(s): Reuters

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